UPDATE 28/09/2011: Gaby's Deli has been threatened with closure - join the campaign to stop this happening at Save Gaby's Deli and sign the petition HERE.
I’ve just taken part in pudfest, but I’m still feeling grouchy and hungry. I pootle towards the Chandos near Charing Cross where the hubby and four friends are meeting me. They look wan and I ask what they’ve had to eat and they say, “Nothing - they stopped serving food at 7”.
“Ridiculous” I say, and I sigh and produce from my magic handbag a couple of prune and armagnac macarons which I’d bought earlier from Comptoir Gascon.
They pounce on them and, wiping the sugary crumbs from his face, the journo friend says, “This foodie thing you do is quite good, isn’t it?”
I smile at him fondly and then get up and say, “Right, that won’t sustain you - we’re off to Gaby’s”.
The civil servant friend says, "That's why I love doing things with you, MiMi - you always make sure we eat properly".
Now Gaby’s on Charing Cross Road is what they call an institution. It’s been there since the beginning of time as far as I know and yet somehow, shamefully I’d never been (though the journo is a veteran).
Though it’s ten o’clock at night, I’m sure it’s still open and yes, wedged in the front door is a cheerful guy wearing a cycle helmet covered in 12 flashing red lights who waves merrily at us as we walk in.
We sit at a large table right at the back and stare at the two identical framed photos of Matt Damon before having a look at the menu.
I’m going for the legendary salt beef special, the husband is having falafel, the journo is having a bottle of red wine (seriously), and the others are having goulash, meatballs and a chicken kebab.
It’s not long before these enormous platters start winging their way towards us. And you know what - it’s all startlingly good (can’t speak for the wine though). It’s the very first time I’ve seen the point of falafel and that salt beef is juicy yet crumbly - pure bovine joy.
I’m especially taken with their chilli sauce though - a rich, spicy, tomatoey concoction which I dollop liberally onto everything - and even onto my companions’ plates as they look slightly askance (hell, they should be used to me by now).
Despite the vast portions, I'm happily wolfing everything down and finally I push myself away from the table and sigh. But suddenly a member of staff appears with a grin and a plate, saying, "These are on the house".
"These" are squares of carrot cake, whimsically garnished with squirty cream. As comically enticing as they look, I really can't face another bite, but once more my friends swoop and once more they give the thumbs up.
So it's late and we're stuffed and we're happy. Time to wend our way home, but before we do, I ask the guy at the counter, "Will you sell me some of your chilli sauce?".
He looks surprised and says, "No, I won't - but I'll give you some" and he ladles the spicy nectar into a huge lidded, poiystyrene cup before wrapping it carefully for me in a paper bag.
I'm giddy. Good times at Gaby's.
30 Charing Cross Road
020 7836 4233